26 January, 2019

The power of using visualization in your business

The power of using visualization in your business

Business leadership requires skills that are seriously varied. It makes sense. You’re leading people and you’re leading your business, which means you’re carving out clarity in really varied areas. You’ve got to be willing to try new things and develop habits that you repeat over time.

Habits like positive visualization. The US Army looked into this back in the 1980s and they were viewed as a bunch of quacks for doing so. That’s the 1980s for you.

The story behind how Australia won the America’s Cup back in 1983 after a 132 year drought involves positive visualization. (I’ve linked to the coaches book because it’s a great read) John Bertrand, the coach at the time, recorded a guided narration of how he visualized the team winning the race over the sound of a sailing ship on water. The team listened to it twice a day for months until it was so deeply embedded in their psyches that they couldn’t imagine not winning. You can just imagine how that tactic would have been viewed back then if they hadn’t won!

But people were talking visualization much earlier than that. I love this quote from the author of the Supreme Philosophy of Man. I don’t know for sure if he used positive visualization about his physical health, but the guy lived for 90 years back in the 20th Century - no mean feat.

“To accomplish great things we must first dream, then visualize, then plan . . .believe . . . act.” ― Alfred A. Montapert

I like it because it covers almost everything off. If I was adapting it for business, I’d add ‘create a strategy’ and ‘develop accountability’, which is why I’m a business performance coach and not a philosophical author.

But back to positive visualization. Scientifically, it uses biofeedback although there’s not actually too much science around it just yet. Like a lot of really interesting things, they know what happens, they can see a positive correlation - it’s just exactly ‘why’ that’s missing right now. Biofeedback is the monitoring, amplifying, and displaying of an internal physiological process, such as muscle tension, temperature, heart behavior, or brain rhythm.

I’ve used it in the army, in business and in my performance sports coaching days. Once you learn it, you can apply it in all kinds of situations. Taking the time to visualize what success looks like has a powerful impact on your behaviour afterwards. It’s that weird and indescribable place where you can feel your physical self and mental self joining forces.

The obvious applications in business are just prior to interactions, especially ones where you don’t feel as comfortable as you’d like. But I think one of the overlooked applications is prior to strategic thinking. Positive visualization helps you with strategy and decision-making because you gain clarity over the path you want to take (looping back to what I wanted to add to old Alfred’s quote).

What does success look like?

This is a very overused question that I think has lost a bit of meaning but it’s powerful if you bring the meaning back and really think about it. It’s important to clarify because success means totally different things to different people. Once you have a clearer idea in your head, that’s when you can start communicating it to others so that everyone works to your version of success, rather than their own.

I like to think long-term first. And don’t just think business, think lifestyle too. For me, when I was creating my six-figure business with my wife, She Maps, we wanted to create a life for ourselves where we could enjoy Queensland. We wanted to afford a lifestyle that was right by the beach, and we wanted to have time - flexible time! Time to spend with our son, actually get to the beach, get outdoors and get into nature on a regular basis. Of course, that didn’t happen at the start but after a few years of hard work, we started to achieve it because it was so clear to us what we wanted.

In business this takes time. I have been working on my businesses for 5 years and despite She Maps only being very young, the success we have had has looked often like an ‘overnight success’. But it is not. It is 5 years of visualising what it is that we wanted, where I personally wanted to be able to be in a professional sense. Without standing back and reflecting and visualising then you don’t know where you are heading.

Focus on what you can control

This is where the short-term goals come in. Long-term goals can seem really overwhelming if you don’t break them down. Start to visualize what you need to do in order to reach those long-term business goals. Are you going to implement a new sales process that will see you reach more customers per month and follow up with warm and cold leads? What does that look like to you?

Let go of barriers and challenges

This is very related to focussing on what you can control. Part of that is letting go of what you can’t. I like to think that this is what Alfred Montapert was saying when he said “...visualize, then plan, believe…” A positive vision requires that you let go of your fear of failing and self-doubt, or at least suspend it for the time being. It’s still important to think about the challenges you’ll face, just not now. If they enter your head, say to yourself that you appreciate your mind’s ability to be risk averse, you’ve noted it and you’ll think about it later. For now, you’re focussing on positive success.

Form the habit

It’s not enough to do it once. If you’re implementing a new sales process, get up every morning and visualize what that sales process is until you do it. Visualize it until communicating it to your staff and others becomes second nature to you, it’s just that engrained. That’s real leadership. We’ve all seen it. When someone is that confident about their vision, it’s easy for everyone to get onboard and progress towards it - and people want to! It makes them feel good.

Create moments to think all the time

Positive visualization works best when you create a time to think about it. Before bed so your brain can recharge overnight, first thing in the morning to get you amped up for the day. But you should also form the habit of thinking about little things that denote success for you all the time. Don’t be afraid to get specific. When you end a phone call with a customer and they say ‘I feel like you completely understand my problem.’ - that might be what success looks like for your business in that small moment. And you can see how that moment is easy to grow and communicate to staff - everyone understands that feeling.

So my advice for you this week, is get that left brain moving. My days in the army taught me that success comes through training. Business success and business leadership isn’t just about dreaming, it’s about action too. Positive visualization is the action of training the mind to create the path to success. The rest will come.

© 2019 Paul Mead